Monday, December 28, 2009

Lincoln Square, Ravenswood pending contracts...Bueller? Bueller?

Please note that I combine the community area of Lincoln Square with the sub-neighborhood of Ravenswood together in my sales analysis. Ravenswood officially overlaps into the Uptown community area east of North Ravenswood Avenue (1800 N ). However, for practical purposes I group everything west of North Ashland Avenue (a busy four lane artery street) and North of Montrose Avenue with the Lincoln Square community area.

With the passing of the original deadline for the first-time buyer's credit behind us, I thought I'd take a look at the current number of pending and contingent (under contract) condo units and single family homes in greater Lincoln Square and Ravenswood. We saw a large increase in closed unit sales for October and November compared to the same months of 2008 due to several factors I've discussed on these pages. Of course, fall 2008 had that little banking crash too. Regardless of the current pending contracts (most of which will close next year) we will have seen a better than average activity in the fourth quarter 2009 at years end.

Currently, there are 30 condos and or town home units under contract in the greater Lincoln Square community area with a median asking price of $249,000 (this includes the Ravenswood neighborhood bordering North Ashland and portions of Bud Long Woods neighborhood to the northwest). The median price is deceiving as it reflects a very diverse stock of homes within the large community.

The highest priced attached unit is 2326 W Giddings #305, a two bedrooms, two bathrooms new construction condo under contract for (gulp!) $509,900 plus parking. There is a home sale contingency on the deal... so they are waiting patiently to close that. It's probably the southeast top floor unit (I should check on that, eh?). [This just in from Fountain View's developer on 1/4/09, the #305 unit under contract is a third floor middle unit and #205 is recently under contract for $499,000]. The unit is in the Fountain View development in the heart of Lincoln Square retail and entertainment.

On the flip side, the bottom four condos under contract are all distressed one bedroom units in the 2400-2405 block of W Balmoral (three i the same condo building)in northwest Lincoln Square for under $50,000. Yep. A tale of two cities for sure.

Only ten single family homes are under contract in the Lincoln Square community area (including the Ravenswood neighborhood from North Ashland going west). Most interesting is the fact that four of those homes are under contract for over one million ($1,195,000 to $1,375,000) and spread out from north to south across Ravenswood and Lincoln Square proper. One of the homes is a short sale at $1,359,000.

The bottom five out of six home sales in price are either bank owned, forced sale or short sales ranging from $234,900 to $650,000. Absent is any home under contract between the price of $650,000 to $1,195,000.

So, if you have an $800,000 home, maybe you should get it on the market.

Data aquired and analyzed from Midwest Real Estate Data LLC in which I am a paying member of (our local MLS).

Gene's Sausage Shop... one more reason to live in Lincoln Square

The immediate days after Christmas and the New Year are truly my favorite times to walk around Lincoln Square. My clients don't want to hear from me and there is still a festive, but less frenzied, atmosphere in this urban oasis we call home.

This past weekend my wife and I were on a mission to find pierogi for a family party we are having New Year's Day. Luckily, the new Gene's Sausage Shop is only a twelve minute walk from our house (I can do it with the kids in the stroller in twelve at a brisk walking pace... I timed it).

Gene's fills a gap for us for fresh deli and produce foods between major stock-up trips to the major chains. I could live on just shopping here (outside of paper products).

A look down at the deli counter

"Turn around cow!"

This attractive European grocer really completes a near perfect city living experience along the main commercial strip on North Lincoln Avenue running southeast from North Western Avenue. Groceries, movie theatre, cafes, low and high-end quality restaurants, parks, trains, books, music and a public square... nice.

Yes, we found the pierogi we'll order.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Muddy Christmas 2009

Rainy and 40 degrees?

At least Santa made it. Ryne was borderline "good" at 2 1/2 years old (we know some people at City Hall) but Amalia was of course perfect at 4 months.

The kids at Grandpa Gus's

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Crain's: November 2009 Chicago area home sales up 72%

That's almost 100% better!

Read the Crain's story here...We here at T-CREL blame a stabilizing economy, low interest rates, lower asking prices and the federal first time buyers credit rush. Congress punked a lot of us by having the original deadline for the tax credit on November 30th... then extended to April 30th. I suspect we'll have a earlier rush in 2010 and it will taper a little bit heading to the new deadline if interest rates go up. If rates stay low, under 6%, we'll probably see a 30% plus increase in April 2010 over April 2009.

National existing home sales up 7.4% in November, 30 year fixed rate at $4.88%...Woot!

A "manor" for sure in Ravenswood Manor, Chicago looks stately on crisp early winter day.

I don't post a lot of national statistics, but the first time buyer's tax credit from Uncle Sam helped turn in another good month of homes sales. November was up 7.4%, Midwest region home sales were up 8.4%. If anything, the media attention on the market woke people up to home prices and great mortgage interest rates (30 year average at 4.88%). I feel left out! As I've mentioned, there were two opportunities I pitched to my wife this late summer and fall... a two-flat in the neighborhood and a single family home in Wilmette. No dice. She ain't moving into a renovation project until the kids are older and can live a Grandma's for a summer. Still wish I got that two-flat.

I digress...

Read the story here from CNN Money on the latest national home sales statistics.

My team is busy advising sellers to take advantage of the upswing we expect in the next 5 months and get on the market... if they need to sell.

Snow day! Let's look at some houses

I love waking up to the snow.

Winter has already hit us with cold weather... but we really like the snow here, no? I find myself each year very busy looking at propererties during, or after, snow storms. Actually, looking for a house almost seems more natural to me in the snow rather than in the heat of the summer. I've lived in Chicago too long.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Blog format problems

We are having a little technical difficulty. My sidebar information has shifted to the bottom of the page. I've tried a few fixes but nothing is working yet today. Next thing to do is sleep on it and hope things are back to normal tomorrow.

Ravenswood Bistro?

Finally posting on the "new" Ravenswood Grill, American Bistro located at Lawrence and Damen in Ravenswood. I live just north of here and the corner has come a long way over the years in this now relatively expensive area.

Has anyone been here with the new owners? The menu looks great but the decor is very tired. It's hard to get in the mood for a good meal in the old maroon booths. I saw a few young couples in the place on Sunday afternoon.

This northern side of Ravenswood has a lot of conveniences within walking distance. The corner of Lawrence and Damen itself has a very appreciated CVS drug store, Georges' Deli for meats and cheeses, Radio Shack (great when you lose your phone charger or lap top chord), T-Mobile store, a Sears store and other small restaurants. It's two blocks from the CTA Damen Brown Line stop.

I'd like to try this place out soon. Hopefully it can follow in the footsteps of the widely popular Mixteco Grill which has a pretty austere decor and busy location at Ashland and Montrose.

Swedish come out for Julmarknad in Andersonville

The Andersonville neighborhood offers a great lifestyle year round. But the Scandinavian feel during the Christmas season is pretty special. The local chamber of commerce also special shopping nights during the holidays.

This year we attended a traditional Swedish celebration, Julmarknad, including a Lucia procession at the Swedish American Museum . The center is located near the intersection of Clark and Foster just a few blocks from my house.

A market area was set up for shopping, traditional food and entertainment.

Sharing traditional food with my family and au pair (from Sweden!).

They even feature a Children's Museum. Ryne does chores in the "Old World" then gets on a boat to America.

Staging helps sell empty Southport Corridor duplex fast

We had a large, empty outdated duplex... and a $5,000 budget.

We were able to paint the entire home, bring in furniture and make small repairs that helped sell 3616 N Janssen #1N for $552,500 after a couple months on the market.

My partner and I really stress doing everything possible to present a property at it's best. We have to help clients make very tough decisions and advise where to put a very finite commodity; money. Will the money spent and decisions made pay-off in a faster sale for top dollar? What we do know -in most cases- something HAS to be done.

Here's a few before and afters from a 2000 square foot Southport Corridor condo we just sold after a couple months on the market. The home was built in 1995 and the finishes were mostly original. So, the rest of the home would have to look and feel brand new to attract today's buyer. We didn't have a ton of resources...

The living room ceilings were 20ft high and the whole home needed painting. We knocked out the full listing preparation and staging in a weeks time.

We take great care in devising a complete plan for preparing, listing and showing the property. Then we work hard to implement it.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Andersonville modern house sells for $100,000 less than in 2007

1710 W Winnemac sells for $850,000K, $100K under it's last sale price. It's the one on the left.

One of my favorite homes sold recently in the Andersonville/Ravenswood neighborhood near Ashland and Winnemac. In fact, it was the subject of the great Dennis Rodkin and Bob Sirot on WGN's Noon Show (at, uh... noon today). They were gracious enough to point out the edge of the Earth out here at Foster and Clark has a little something going on.

We wrote about this home in June when it was listed at $999,900. The home recently closed at $850K. This is a terrific modern home that sold for a loss. At 13% below it's 2007 closed price, not a total disaster and I'd venture to say an everyday occurrence. The media picked up on this because one of it's own, ABC's Kevin Roy, sold the house. I featured the home on my Ravenswood Open House Bike Tour this summer and I think I ran into Mr. Roy, who, was apparently hosting the open house and watering plants. The house was full of contemporary furniture and art. Just light filled cool space with appropriate decor. Below is a photo of one of my favorite rooms on the top floor leading to the rear terrace. This would be MY room should have the Rojas clan knocked off a bank and bought the house.

$850K was a pretty good deal. There have been plenty of traditional frame homes selling for more in the area recently. However, the lot is a little tight (the lots of the twin homes are basically "connected") and the south facing view is of a parking lot. But, my money is on this open, modern design that catches the eye of neighbors and passersby (like the media) alike.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Mortgage interest rate are low...Merry Christmas

December is for my family... a sprint. December is not the time most families are thinking about mortgage rates or buying a home. Well, mortgage rates are low and sellers are trying to catch this wave of positive home sale numbers (units, not prices anyway).

The one thing you can time in the housing market is a low interest rate. If you are going to look for a home in January or holding off on a re-finance "until after the holidays", maybe you should take notice now of low interest rates can be on any given day.

It's tough in December...I mean; shoveling, running the business, a billion kid, family and work parties, shoveling again, kids, gift shopping, holiday cards, kids, and now I have to go shovel ice... I'm slammed over here. But I think saving money on a house is just as important and you should take advantage of the current lending and house price conditions aggressively.

Monday, December 07, 2009

New construction condo development on Diversey in Lincoln Park. Or is it Lakeview?

There has been a new wave of new construction of sorts stretching from Halsted to Sheffield along busy Diversey Avenue over the past year or so. I spotted this new building going up FAST a few weeks ago. This photo was taken last week. The building is located on the north side of Diversey just east of North Mildred Avenue and is in Lincoln Park, 60614. This popular small stretch continues to turn over housing stock despite the market over the past two years.

This three year old new construction building just west of Mildred on the north side of Diversey is in Lakeview, 60657.

The corner of North Halsted Street and West Diversey Avenue arguably has a storied, colorful past. It is now a home to new condo construction and the bustling crux of the Lakeview and Lincoln Park neighborhoods. The area features many small pubs that cater to both a younger "post college" sports bar crowd and long time regulars of the area (such as yours truly). There are several lunch places, dry cleaners, fitness centers, fast food and small retail stores for ever day needs.

An important amenity is the tooth rattling Diversey stop on the CTA Brown Line. The cycle of commuters to and from the "L" stop keeps the area in perpetual motion. In addition, the Diversey and Halsted bus lines are convenient and heavily used. Below, we see just recently completed new construction to the right of the photo eyeing the Diversey Brown Line.

Early last year, three two-flat buildings in a row were razed and three six-unit new construction buildings were built and sold surprisingly rather swiftly on the south side on Diversey. I'll investigate some pricing of these condos in my next post.

Details on filing first time buyer's tax credit

I just bought this condo... now show me the money.

Here's a good article linked below on the first time buyer's tax credit. The IRS is issuing updated guidelines and information later this month. Kennth R. Harney reports IRS suggests waiting a little while before making tax credit requests.Wait to claim that tax credit

Friday, December 04, 2009

Lakeview open house Southport Corridor, Graceland West $285,000 Sunday 12/6/09

One of my group members, Thomas Reid, will host an open house at 4110 N Southport #2, Sunday 12/6/09 from 12P to 3P in the afternoon.

This is an exceptionally bright condo. Two bedrooms, one bath, large kitchen, dining room and storage. Great deck off the kutchen and steps from Southport Corridor action. This place is great for a single person or couples who want Southport corridor under $300K. Plenty of light, space and storage. This location actually has easy street parking (seriously) and there are cheap rental options right off the alley.

Chicago Tribune interviews me on House Hunter's appearance

Staged or the real deal?
I appeared in the Chicago Tribune today in an article about HGTV's House Hunters. I came off a little negative in the story... however, the point was accurate: This particular show is fun for looking at real estate and not a documentary on home buying.

My House Hunter's show is set to air this Thursday, December 10th at 8PM Central Time on cable's HGTV.I had a good time filming and my clients Kurt and Kelly were really good sports. It's a lot of work... I acted as producer on the ground... coordinating showings, paperwork, and filming dates. Not to mention while all this was going on, we were looking for, and negotiating, a condo purchase. The buyers had to dedicate time to filming on 5 different days.

I love watching House Hunters and House Hunters International. Sometimes with family members in town we all crash on the couch and watch a couple hours of episodes. It's been fun being on the "inside". Hope people enjoy our episode!

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Contemporary Ravenswood home sells after $50K price reduction

Cool Ravenswood row house that you may have missed walking by.

Back in the summer, I viewed this home at 1757 West Sunnyside on my Ravenswood Open House Bicycle Tour and hung around forever. Originally priced at $649,000 it was a bit pricey at the time when I saw it for a true two bedroom at $629,000. The agent and I both felt $599,000 would sell it. And it has...

The coverted warehouse space is all about the light. Awesome windows throughout. A main floor family room and fourth level office make the home functional considering the lack of a third bedroom. Zen bathroom and roof top deck. This home was for someone that wanted special. I loved it.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Lincoln Square single family home sales in the third quarter 2009

Greater Lincoln Square single family homes have fared relatively well during our boom and bust cycle and still remains pretty stable as the market "bottoms out" currently. That said, we still realized a 19% decrease in median price for the third quarter 2009. We slipped to $482,500 from $595,000 in the good ol' days of '08. But as usual, that drop in price elicits a giant "gulp" without context. Remember, Lincoln Square is big but most people only associate it with the commercial corridor along Lincoln Avenue from about Montrose to Lawrence heading northwest. Homes near the farther north and northwest borders of the area are priced lower on average than those in central and southern locations.

30 single family homes closed during third quarter 2009 in the Lincoln Square community area, one of 77 community areas in Chicago. This is an 11% increase over 2008 third quarter. I predicted an increase condo transactions for third quarter due to low interest rates and federal first time buyer tax credits. Single family homes sales were probably driven more so by low interest rates, lower asking prices and stabilizing job situations.

For example, only 19 single family homes sold in second quarter 2009 this year reflecting the lingering uncertainty from the fall 2008 disaster. To close in second quarter, most home buyers were looking and making decisions during the first quarter, a time of a new presidential administration and great economic uncertainty. 19 homes is actually pretty good considering the mood of the country. Closing a single family home in second quarter is usually pretty attractive due to children's school schedules. So, a third quarter 30 spot (over 30% increase in unit sales from the spring) is pretty significant.
Expect decent sales numbers for fourth quarter this year in general. The tax credit high and low interest rates lit a fire under some sore fence sitting bums! October and November will show pretty big unit sales numbers.

As for what you get? Don't expect much under $450K (unless you want to live on Foster Avenue or consider yourself "handy"). Another interesting statistic is only one of the 30 homes closed on our MLS as a foreclosure or short-sale (a flooded Georgian foreclosure in Bud Long Woods for $200K).

All statistics taken from Midwest Real Estate Data, LLC which I'm a member.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Mommas don't let your babies grow up to be mortgage underwriters

One minute after this photo was taken, steam came out of my ears.

In a new-to-everyone shocker for today's lending environment, a client's home loan was denied by a large bank because the underwriters did not deem the comparable properties used in the appraisal sufficient. Despite factual arguments made by the ON THE GROUND appraiser, me and the listing agent of the subject property, the underwriters determined the market value of a property (of which they had never been in) on comparable properties they have never seen that are in neighborhoods the underwriters have never been in.

I guess the bank can lend to whomever they want. However, denying a loan to a qualified, ready, willing and able buyer for a renovated home being sold by a non-distressed owner in a stable neighborhood is one example what people are going through right now. The subject property had also a previous higher offer but the buyer lost his job during the purchase process. The property had multiple offers in a shorter than average market time yet market value is disputed.

Specifically, the bank underwriters want to value a renovated town home (that has new windows, baseboards, gutted newer kitchen, gutted newer bath, refinished and stained floors... etc) with over $60K in improvements inside and out at the same price as a mostly original town home built at the same time (mid 1960s). The distressed property was sold as a short sale just two months back. And we are only asking that the subject property sell at $15K above the short sale town home and for the appraised amount! The subject property is also selling well below the median price for three bedroom town homes in the area. Why the red flag?

Why can't the bank order another independent appraisal when there is a dispute? If the valuation is the same as the first wouldn't the bank be satisfied and want to make the loan? We all know most banks burned themselves in the bubble and government and self imposed regulations have made mortgage lending maddening for both loan officials and borrowers. But when transactions are getting stopped cold by underwriters in offices somewhere disputing on-the-ground property appraisals over a $15K difference... this is nuts. And that's what it's like out here.

At the moment, my client's mortgage broker has submitted the file to two other lenders as we all feel this should be a no brainer. Because the buyer is using an FHA loan, we won't need a new appraisal when switching banks. However, there will be a red flag due to the first denial to lend at the contract price. It's wait and see for now. My guy is stuck and the sellers can't close on their new home until they sell their current place... everyone waits with a lot to lose.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Babies move condos; More clients selling with kids

When I began my real estate business in Chicago, I worked with mainly single/no kids and married/no kids people by chance. Suddenly this year many of my clients are squeezed into their condos thanks to "recession babies" my circle likes to call them. It seems everywhere I turn, new and old clients have "one on the way", a two year old, a couple of them, or another one on the way. Just look at all the property photos with cribs in them (actual baby cribs, not MTV "Cribs"). I've even had several conversations lately at weddings and parks with frustrated sellers (and current owners that would like to move) who have kids. A baby boom has become a real nich market for me.

It's sort of a catch 22. It's really great having your first kid in the city, even in a small condo. The ability to walk to retail, restaurants, parks and free stuff is fantastic. The diversity of friends in the community (age, sex, marital status, socioeconomics, educations etc...) keeps us vibrant and is why we live in the city besides our jobs. It's all good until #2 shows up or you just plain outgrow your current situation. It's at this very moment where it becomes harder to keep your home in good showing condition. Showing your home also becomes much more of a hassle on your lifestyle and schedule when you have kids.

Even though city condo values are lower now in general than in the last several years, many of my clients have the ability to sell and move on to suburban single family homes, a city town home or even a single family. The core Chicago neighborhoods have held up pretty well and even selling at a loss is not a disaster if you really need a bigger place. As the saying goes, you'll save on the "move-up" property. That's, of course, if you have the ability to sell and walk away with a few bucks still in the bank.

The key is to prepare the home to show at it's best and price at the true lower end of the market. My job is to get this to happen one way or another. You will sell quicker, get the top dollar allowed in this market and keep your stress level to a minimum. The main obstacle is going to be you, the seller. If you really have to move the family then it's time to let go of markets past. If you live in the now with your loved ones (and listen to your Realtor when preparing the home for sale), you'll sell your home and begin your next phase of life.

You have to be committed 100% to move or be prepared for frustrations.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

In case you have not heard: Chicago home sales up 33% in October

As predicted here, unit sales were way up in October for the Chicagoland area, while median price continues to drop. We'll see a big bump in closings in November too. Remember, the Chicago area statics stated here in the Tribune story linked are from a pretty big area. The stats on your home, neighborhood, block may look very different depending on "what you got".

Sunday, November 22, 2009

New construction condos in Northcenter Chicago? At what price I ask.

True mobile blogging...snatching photos of new construction in Northcenter... while driving.

Are developers back in? I spotted these new construction condos going up quickly at the 4100 block of North Damen in Northcenter. The buildings are similar to the yet-to-be-sold-out-forever condos next door. City wide in general, smaller new construction and new conversion development projects have been elusive for a good year or so. There are many reasons, starting with developer and buyers inability to get financing due to sometimes maddening guidelines. I digress.

The existing top floor, three bedroom condo for sale at 4043 N Damen is now listed at $419,000 plus $25,000 for a parking outdoor space... not garage spot. The over-all market time for this property is over 600 days and it was originally priced at $565K. Nice finishes, great front terrace but no roof top deck. Natch.

I have not found sales information on line for the new buildings just yet. Let's hope they are three bedroom units (at least), priced well and finished for the new first time buyer's rush we'll see early spring 2010. This is a nice, if not busy location, located across from a CVS drug store, a Jewel Food Store, 5 minute walk to the CTA Brown Line train at Irving Park Road, and a bevy of newer restaurants and bars including the popular Brownstone sports bar and upscale Sola restaurant. It's a good spot to get to other neighborhood entertainment centers like Lincoln Square, Roscoe Village and Wrigleyvill quickly.

If you have question concerning Northcenter condos or these units specifically, please give me a call.